As regular readers of our blog will know, the expert travel writers and editors at World Words like to get around. Nothing makes us happier than strapping on a backpack and heading out there to discover a new place, meet new people and gain new perspectives. Nothing, that is, except for writing about the experience for our clients!
The Our Travels blog series is the place where we can share some of our most recent trips directly. In the past, we have covered our most exciting discoveries in all four corners of the world, from the cute brown bear cubs of Alaska to the majestic vultures of India, the Mayan pyramids of Guatemala to the mountaintop temples of Japan.
This month, our editor-in-chief Joe takes us to a distant corner of Europe that is capturing the hearts of more and more people: Madeira. After visiting the Portuguese archipelago in early February, Joe picks his island highlights…
Why I went to Madeira
The simple answer? I needed some sun. It had been a dark, cold and wet January in my part of the world, so my wife and I felt we needed to disappear to somewhere warmer for a week. However, after too much travelling over the festive period, we didn’t want to go too far from home. After talking to some friends and doing some research, we decided on Madeira. Unlike many of the more typical ‘winter sun’ resort destinations, Madeira seemed to have plenty to do – great hiking, good food, a lively music scene; and all explorable within a week. It sounded perfect.
My highlight of the trip
The levadas. These irrigation channels are found across Madeira, and were designed to transport water from the rainy northwest to its drier southeast for agriculture. As they criss-cross the island, many of these levadas are cut right into the sides of mountains – and occasionally cut through them – which makes for incredible hiking routes.
There is an extensive network of hiking paths along Madeira’s levadas; everything from gentle, relaxing canalside strolls to challenging hikes with treacherously narrow cliffside paths. We hiked half a dozen of the island’s levadas during our week-long stay, and each one was incredible in its own way, from the extraordinary vistas of forested mountains to the waterfalls tumbling down on your head. Yet we barely scratched the surface of what’s available.
What else I love about Madeira
The levadas and the mountains were the big draw for us, but there is also some truly spectacular coastal scenery in Madeira. I can wholeheartedly recommend a beautiful yet perilously windy hike from Ponta de São Lourenço to the Ilhéu da Cevada at the far eastern edge of the island. The theatrically high cliffs, the basalt and limestone rock formations and the endless ocean makes this a superb half-day trip. Look out rare Mediterranean monk seals too!
I also loved learning about the island’s geological formation at the São Vicente Caves. There are some interesting exhibits (and a 3D movie) about the volcanic origins of Madiera, then the chance to head underground and walk through genuine lava tubes formed during a volcanic eruption nearly one million years ago. It’s quite something.
Why you should go
There are so many reasons to visit. Personally, I was most impressed by the diversity of the landscapes, especially considering that it’s such a small island. The green mountains of the interior reminded me of Costa Rica, while the coastal cliffs immediately brought to mind the Scottish Highlands. And in amongst all this you have bustling capital Funchal, lots of pretty seaside villages and the remarkably colourful plant life, including the bird of paradise flower.
How you can visit
The most convenient way to visit Madeira from the UK and mainland Europe is through a package holiday – and with an abundance of all-inclusive hotels, it’s often the cheapest way to visit too. For independent travellers, there are also budget flights available from the likes of easyJet, Jet2.com and Eurowings – plus a few national airlines.
At World Words, we’ve written travel content about almost every corner of Europe. You can read some of our web copy, articles and guides on European destinations here. And keep up to date by following us on Twitter.